Behind the scenes of co-creation generated OOH for “Money Forward Day”

14 February 2022

Behind the scenes of co-creation generated OOH for “Money Forward Day”

As well observed especially during Tokyo Olympics 2020, COVID-19 has affected the sports industry dramatically – the enthusiastic cheering of spectators that had filled stadiums have disappeared with social distancing. With such a situation that restrained fans’ passion affecting the relationship between sports clubs/athletes and fans, the partners/sponsors of the sports clubs also had to ask themselves the question: how to keep the fans stay enthusiastic and utilize the excitement for the corporate activation. The case of sports sponsorship activation with Money Forward planned by TBWA\HAKUHODO (“TH”) that we are introducing today could give helpful insights to the question.

On October 20, 2020, Money Forward announced that it will become a top partner of Yokohama F. Marinos (“F. Marinos”). The partnership started in the midst of pandemic, but Money Forward has been actively and continuously engaging with F. Marinos fans and supporters through social media to build a firm relationship as the “Marinos family”.

And on October 16, 2021, about a year later of the partnership announcement, the sponsored game titled “Money Forward Day” was held. Towards this day, Money Forward and TH planned an OOH with the concept of “#Supporting Ad Made Together,” with the supporting messages of F. Marinos fans and supporters collected through social media.
On Monday of the week of the game (October 11), the OOH at Yokohama Station featured a picture of F. Marinos players with a cheering copy. At first glance, it appeared to be just an ordinary ad for F. Marinos.

OOH displayed at Yokohama Station on Monday (October 11 2021)

OOH displayed at Yokohama Station on Monday (October 11 2021)

On the next day (October 12) however, the ad was updated and the Money Forward logo appeared on the left side. If you look closely, you could see that the logo was made up of passionate support messages collected from Money Forward employees.

OOH display on Tuesday (October 12 2021)

OOH display on Tuesday (October 12 2021)

Finally on the day before the game (October 15), the F. Marinos emblem was added on the right side to complete the ad. This emblem was created with support messages from fans and supporters that were gathered through twitter in advance – making the ad truly co-created by Money Forward and F. Marinos fans and supporters.

OOH display on the day before the game (October 15 2021)

OOH display on the day before the game (October 15 2021)

The players of F. Marios responded with the dramatic upset victory in the game. We talked to Ms. Keiko Kanai, VP of Culture, Mr. Ken Ishido, Sponsorship Activation Planner at Money Forward, and Mr. Takanori Akahoshi, Integrated Marketing Director at TH, who led the planning and execution of this activation campaign about the inside story and their thoughts on the project.

The interviewees - from left: Ms. Keiko Kanai, VP of Culture (Money Forward), Mr. Ken Ishido, Sponsorship Activation Planner (Money Forward), and Mr. Takanori Akahoshi, Integrated Marketing Director (TBWA\HAKUHODO)

The interviewees – from left: Ms. Keiko Kanai, VP of Culture (Money Forward), Mr. Ken Ishido, Sponsorship Activation Planner (Money Forward), and Mr. Takanori Akahoshi, Integrated Marketing Director (TBWA\HAKUHODO)

HINT① Delivering the idea of “Togetherness” to supporters

What made you want to create a participatory OOH project collectings messages from fans and supporters?

Kanai (MF): Not limited to this “Money Forward Day” match, the “co-creation style,” doing something together with supporters, has been one of the characteristics of Money Forward. F. Marinos also usually emphasizes involving supporters frequently in their projects, as well as the players of F. Marinos often using the word “family,” which I thought was a good point in common between F. Marinos and Money Forward. We wanted to make Money Forward Day more focused on that common belief, and we thought “an ad created together” would be something symbolic that would leave a lasting impression.

Ishido (MF): In 2019, F. Marinos and TH carried out a “real-time handwritten outdoor advertisement” at Yokohama Station and it caused a sensation. This made me think that F. Marinos had a context of utilizing advertisement to deliver their message to the fans and create excitement. In addition, we have always focused on communication with fans and supporters through social media, but we had not yet tried offline communication. So we wanted to convey our passion as a partner in the tangible form which is OOH.

a real-time handwritten rank table displayed at Yokohama station in 2019

a real-time handwritten rank table displayed at Yokohama station in 2019

HINT② Communication from “a person” not “a company”

With this request from Money Forward, which points did TH focus on in planning this project?

Akahoshi (TH): I thought that putting out a message at Yokohama Station, one of the symbolic places for F. Marinos, would attract a lot of attention and would be able to create excitement together with the fans. There was also a keyword “co-creation” from Money Forward, so I thought rather than an OOH that is posted once and done, an ad “created together” and keep updated would be more meaningful.

Personally, I’ve been a big fan of F. Marinos since elementary school, and I have been following the related social media on a daily basis. And I’ve always felt that Money Forward is very active in communicating with fans through social media and has built a very strong connection with the supporters. I wanted to take advantage of that strength for this project.

The word “co-creation” is maybe too often used, but it is quite difficult to create a true “co-creative relationship”. In the case of sports sponsorship, generally speaking, even when your company forms a partnership with a team, if fans and supporters cannot sense any “persons” involved, they may feel distance from the sponsor. In the case of Money Forward, on the other hand, there are a lot of employees who use their real names on their social accounts to interact with the fans or supporters. This allows the supporters to see personal “faces” and feel the sincerity, making fans and supporters feel much closer to the company.
This is why I came up with the idea of creating a logo with the messages collected from the employees of Money Forward, hoping to create a way to see the real and personal thoughts of employees on F. Marinos and Money Forward Day. And I believed fans and supporters of F. Marinos would be very supportive of this project based on the close relationship Money Forward has already created.

Behind the scenes of co-creation generated OOH for “Money Forward Day”

HINT③ “Partner” “Fans/Supporters” and “Club” as one family

Of all the messages gathered from supporters and Money Forward employees, were there any particular messages that stuck out in your mind?

Ishido (MF): The timing of the Money Forward Day was when it would be tricky for F. Marinos to win the championship of the season, but there was still a chance if we could win again. We received a lot of messages saying, “Don’t give up, keep fighting!” I felt that we were able to create an atmosphere for the fans not to lose heart yet and do their best to support and cheer for the team.

Kanai (MF): The timeline was filled with the slogan “All for Marinos” that was used when F. Marinos won the championship in 2019. It was so awesome that we were able to create a place to express everyone’s passionate feelings to never give up.

Behind the scenes of co-creation generated OOH for “Money Forward Day”

Akahoshi (TH): It was also great to read all the thoughts and feelings of Money Forward employees. The most heartwarming message was from a 7-year-old child of one of the employees who wrote “Mr. Marcos, We love you!” Another thing that made me happy was that we received messages from other partners, including F. Marios staffs. I felt like this campaign was able to embody Money Forward’s partnership concept of “Partner Forward, Supporter Forward, Club Forward.”

How did fans, supporters, and employees respond after this project was carried out?

Kanai (MF): Some of the supporters said “I couldn’t attend the game, but I felt like I was there” or “I’ve never been so excited about a sponsored game.” I am glad that we did this project because without this “cheering & supporting ad created by everyone”, I don’t think we would have been able to create the excitement of the fans and supporters before the game.

Ishido (MF): As for the employees, various members of Money Forward participated in the event, including our management, new graduates, and employees’ families. I was told that they could relate to the concept of “co-creation” which closely relates to the mission of the company. More importantly, we were able to show our enthusiasm to the fans, supporters and F. Marinos that we really wanted to make this game as exciting as possible for all of Marinos Family. From a sports business point of view, I think we were able to gain attention from the industry – we have been receiving questions and consultations about the project from other partners and other sports teams.

Behind the scenes of co-creation generated OOH for “Money Forward Day”

Akahoshi (TH): On a very personal note, F. Marinos turned the game around and won with less than 10 minutes to go, and when we scored the goal, I burst into tears! I felt that one of the many sources of the power to turn the game around at the last minute was the enthusiasm of the fans and the partner that Money Forward conveyed.

Kanai (MF): A lot of supporters told me “we won the game thanks to Money Forward”, and it was such a huge compliment for us. Of course, the victory was thanks to the players’ efforts and the supporters’ passionate cheer, but I’m happy that we were able to do something that will remain in the hearts of the supporters as well. On LINE Live event after the game, one of the players Mr. Mizunuma said, “Today was Money Forward Day, so we definitely wanted to win.” I hope that we were able to give some kind of power to the players with the co-created OOH.

HINT④ “Sincerity will reach the audience”

Were there any lessons that you would like to make use of in the future as Money Forward?

Ishido (MF): Preparing for this sponsored game, we talked about “doing something unprecedented” and “doing this with all our heart”. It is usually difficult to get people interested in the sponsored game, but I thought that if we were sincere about changing the norm, we might be able to deliver more value and meaning of the partnership to the fans and supporters. This time, I think that the fans and supporters were able to empathize with us through the thorough implementation of measures, and we were able to prove that our style of co-creation is the right way to communicate with supporters.
Also, although numbers are not everything, the engagement was the highest so far and I think we have created a successful fan activation case. If there is an opportunity, I would like to challenge a similar project again.

HINT⑤ You can’t build a relationship in a day

“Co-creation” is a keyword not only in sports partnerships (sponsorship), but also in many other situations. What are the learnings you got that you can apply to other future projects?

Akahoshi (TH): I think one answer to effective “co-creation” is that it facing and interacting with your supporters as a person not as a company/brand – if you see the real people and their thoughts, you can empathize more with the company or brand.
Another point that made this project successful was the accumulation of Money Forward’s daily activities. The relationship with F. Marinos fans and supporters that they have built up so far made the campaign exciting, and if it had been a brand that hasn’t invested time building a relationship with supporters, I don’t think the same approach would have worked.
In that sense, rather than proposing a random major campaign out of blue, an agency would first need to properly understand the culture of the company/brand, and the relationship it has with the fans/supporters. Then it would have to review the day-to-day communication style with supporters and fans and come up with the style that fits the company’s situation and culture. This is a basic stance, but I hope to be able to support companies in building close relationships with fans to maximize the power of “co-creation”.

Behind the scenes of co-creation generated OOH for “Money Forward Day”

Money Forward Inc. Project members
・VP of Culture Keiko Kanai
・Sponsorship Activation Planner Ken Ishido

TBWA\HAKUHODO Project members
・Integrated Marketing Director Takanori Akahoshi
・Creative Director Domu Fujishima
・Art Director Katsuya Arai
・Planner Rio Yoshida
・Account Director Hisakazu Mizutamari
・Media Planner Mariko Nomura

Communication and branding to turn “consumers” into “fans/supporters”, is becoming more and more important in any industry, not only in sports and entertainment. What is important in this context, as the interviewees say, is for companies to try to get closer to their fans/supporters through frequent and intimate communication and build a close partnership based on the passionate desire to “create together”.

We hope the learning from this project was insightful – stay tuned for the next episode!

Communication team(